Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
Every wise woman buildeth her house: but the foolish plucketh it down with her hands.1. Every wise woman] Some texts read the wisdoms (plur. of excellence, as in Proverbs 9:1) of women. And so in next clause, the folly (of women). A slightly different reading is followed by A.V. and R.V., the wise ones of (among) women, buildeth every one her house; σοφαὶ γυναῖκες, LXX.; sapiens mulier, Vulg. Comp. Her wise princesses, lit. the wise (ones) of her princesses, Jdg 5:29.
her hands] her own hands, R.V., as indicated by the order of the words in the Heb.: “with her hands plucketh it down.”
He that walketh in his uprightness feareth the LORD: but he that is perverse in his ways despiseth him.2. The proverb maintains the intimate relation between piety and probity.
In the mouth of the foolish is a rod of pride: but the lips of the wise shall preserve them.3. a rod of pride] This may mean either that he smites with his proud words as with a rod (comp. Isaiah 11:4, where however the Heb. word is different); or (preserving better the antithesis between the two clauses of the verse) that his own mouth furnishes “a rod for his pride” (R.V. marg.); his own words cause his humiliation. Instead of “rod,” however, we may render “shoot” (R.V. marg.): proud words spring out of his mouth like a sucker or branch (comp. Isaiah 11:1, the only other place in which the same Heb. word occurs).
Where no oxen are, the crib is clean: but much increase is by the strength of the ox.4. the crib is clean] and therefore the labour of cleansing and replenishing it is avoided; but the fruit of such labour is lost also. This is what we ourselves understand by a “proverb,” a salient example of a general law. See Introd. ch. II. p. 16.
A faithful witness will not lie: but a false witness will utter lies.5. will utter] uttereth, R.V., “Heb. breatheth out” marg.; ἐκκαίει ψευδῆ, LXX., in the sense of kindleth, bloweth into flame.
A scorner seeketh wisdom, and findeth it not: but knowledge is easy unto him that understandeth.6. findeth it not] Lit. and it is not (there)! Only to the lowly and reverent does Wisdom reveal herself. Comp. Matthew 11:25.
Go from the presence of a foolish man, when thou perceivest not in him the lips of knowledge.7. Go from … when thou perceivest not] Rather, Go into … and thou shalt not perceive, R.V. text. Take up your position, as it were, over against him, and contemplate him carefully, and weigh his words; and your first impression of him will be confirmed, “thou shalt not perceive” &c.
The wisdom of the prudent is to understand his way: but the folly of fools is deceit.8. deceit] It has been questioned whether this means self-deceit, as the parallel might seem to suggest, or deceiving others. But the design of the proverb is to shew that the two things are really one. Whereas the wisdom of the prudent consists in his understanding his own character and conduct, in its relation to God, to his neighbour and to himself, the folly of fools is that being self-deceived, they think they can deceive God and man to their own advantage. Comp. 2 Timothy 3:13.
Fools make a mock at sin: but among the righteous there is favour.9. sin] Rather, guilt, R.V. If this rendering be adopted, the Heb. construction (a sing. verb with a plur. noun, lit. fools, he maketh &c.) will serve to individualise (comp. Proverbs 3:18), and the contrast will be between the noisy assembly of fools, each one turning into jest and ridicule the guilt he has incurred, and the “favour” (or, good will, R.V.) of God and man that rests upon the righteous. We may, however, understand the word guilt to be the subject of the sentence, and then take it in either of two senses: (a) guilt makes a mock of fools, laughing to scorn their anguish and deprecation when it overtakes them (comp. Proverbs 1:26); or (b) a guilt-offering mocks the fool, who offers it with the vain idea that it will take the place of amendment of life, for only on the upright does God’s favour rest. Comp. Isaiah 1:11-20.
The heart knoweth his own bitterness; and a stranger doth not intermeddle with his joy.10. The poet of the Christian Year has caught something of the beauty and pathos of this proverb as he writes:
“Each in his hidden sphere of joy or woe
Our hermit spirits dwell and range apart.”
“Nor e’en the tenderest heart, and next our own,
Knows half the reasons why we smile or sigh”;
and Matthew Arnold (quoted by Horton):
“Yes! in the sea of life enisled,
With echoing straits between us thrown,
Dotting the shoreless watery waste,
We mortal millions live alone.
The islands feel the enclasping flow,
And then their endless bounds they know.”
It is worth quoting, if only as a foil to it, the prosaic apothegm, “None knows the weight of another’s burden,” Geo. Herbert, Jac. Prud.
The house of the wicked shall be overthrown: but the tabernacle of the upright shall flourish.
There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.
Even in laughter the heart is sorrowful; and the end of that mirth is heaviness.13. that mirth] Rather, mirth. The statement is general though not universal. “The bright talker, the merry jester, the singer of the gay song, goes home when the party separates, and on his threshold he meets the veiled sorrow of his life, and plunges into the chilly shadow in which his days are spent.” Horton.
The backslider in heart shall be filled with his own ways: and a good man shall be satisfied from himself.
The simple believeth every word: but the prudent man looketh well to his going.
A wise man feareth, and departeth from evil: but the fool rageth, and is confident.16. rageth] Or, beareth himself insolently, R.V. The rendering however, rageth, or loses his temper, is borne out by Psalm 78:21; Psalm 78:59, where both A.V. and R.V. render the same Heb. word, was wroth.
He that is soon angry dealeth foolishly: and a man of wicked devices is hated.17. and] Rather, but. The comparison is between hasty anger leading to folly, and deliberate malice provoking hatred.
The simple inherit folly: but the prudent are crowned with knowledge.
The evil bow before the good; and the wicked at the gates of the righteous.
The poor is hated even of his own neighbour: but the rich hath many friends.
He that despiseth his neighbour sinneth: but he that hath mercy on the poor, happy is he.
Do they not err that devise evil? but mercy and truth shall be to them that devise good.22. The LXX. add:
They understand not mercy and faith who are devisers of evil,
But things merciful and faithful are with them who devise good.
In all labour there is profit: but the talk of the lips tendeth only to penury.
The crown of the wise is their riches: but the foolishness of fools is folly.24. The crown of the wise] i.e. the wisdom which is their crown (Proverbs 14:18) is (constitutes) their riches. It is at once an ornament and a thing of price; whereas the folly of fools is, and always remains (only) folly. It is possible, however, to render, with R.V. marg., Their riches is a crown unto the wise, gracing and graced by the wearer; but the folly of fools no wealth can ennoble; it is still only folly.
A true witness delivereth souls: but a deceitful witness speaketh lies.25. delivereth souls] by clearing them from false accusation and establishing their innocence.
a deceitful witness speaketh lies] Rather: he that uttereth (lit. breatheth) lies (causes, or is) deceit, R.V.; is a cheat, Lange. He who, in contrast to the “faithful witness,” gives false evidence obscures the truth and (it is implied) destroys, instead of “delivering” souls.
The rendering of A.V. has the support both of LXX., ἐκκαίει δὲ ψευδῆ δόλιος (sc. μάρτυς); and of Vulg. profert mendacia versipellis.
In the fear of the LORD is strong confidence: and his children shall have a place of refuge.26. his] i.e. the Lord’s. Ewald and others render, to his children (who feareth Jehovah) he (Jehovah) will be &c. Comp. R.V. marg.: the children of him that hath it (sc. the fear of the Lord) shall have, &c.
The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life, to depart from the snares of death.27. Comp. Proverbs 13:14.
In the multitude of people is the king's honour: but in the want of people is the destruction of the prince.
He that is slow to wrath is of great understanding: but he that is hasty of spirit exalteth folly.29. slow to wrath] Comp. βραδὺς εἰς ὀργήν, James 1:19.
exalteth] The Heb. word may either mean, with A.V. and R.V. text, lifteth up, i.e. gives it prominence, brings it into notice; or, with R.V. marg., taketh up, and so carrieth away, as his possession. The first of these is to be preferred.
A sound heart is the life of the flesh: but envy the rottenness of the bones.30. sound] Or, tranquil, R.V. marg. (deriving the word from another root). See Proverbs 15:4 and comp. Ecclesiastes 10:4, where the same Heb. word is rendered, yielding, or gentleness, A.V. and R.V.
envy] Or, jealousy, R.V. marg. See for illustrations, Genesis 4:4-5; Genesis 37:4; 1 Samuel 18:8; Esther 5:13.
He that oppresseth the poor reproacheth his Maker: but he that honoureth him hath mercy on the poor.31. he that honoureth &c.] Rather, he that hath mercy on the needy honoureth him, R.V. Comp. Proverbs 17:5; Matthew 25:40.
The wicked is driven away in his wickedness: but the righteous hath hope in his death.32. his wickedness] Lit. his evil; which may mean either, with R.V. text, the evil which he does, his evil-doing, or, with R.V. marg., the evil which he suffers, his calamity. The latter meaning preserves best the parallelism: when calamity overtakes the wicked it crushes him utterly (comp. Psalm 36:12), but even in his last extremity of death the righteous hath hope.
hope in his death] which implies a belief in a future state.
The same vivid contrast meets us in a more expanded form in Psalms 73. The “prosperity of the wicked,” in contrast to the hard lot of the righteous, had been the stumbling-block of the writer of the Psalm (Psalm 73:1-16). It was by considering “the end” both of the one and of the other, that his faith was re-established. The wicked are thrust down in their calamity, “How are they become a desolation in a moment! They are utterly consumed with terrors” (Proverbs 14:19): The righteous hath hope in his death, “Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory” (Proverbs 14:24). Comp. Psalm 49:14-15. It is to be noticed that in both these Psalms (Psalm 73:24; Psalm 49:15) the same word, take, or receive, is used to express the hope of the Psalmist, as that by which the translation of Enoch is described, God took him (Genesis 5:24; Hebrews 11:5).
The LXX. read, “but he that trusteth in his own integrity is righteous,” ὁ δὲ πεποιθὼς τῇ ἑαυτοῦ ὁσιότητι δίκαιος; on which Lange observes, “may not this divergent reading owe its origin to the endeavour to gain an antithesis as exact as possible to the ‘in his wickedness’ of the first clause?”
Wisdom resteth in the heart of him that hath understanding: but that which is in the midst of fools is made known.33. the midst] Rather (answering to the heart in the 1st clause) the inward part, R.V. Adopting this, we may render, either with A.V. and R.V. text, “that which is in the inward part” (i.e. their folly, comp. Proverbs 12:23); or “but in the inward part of fools it (wisdom, any modicum of it which they have or think they have), so far from resting and biding its time, is blurted out.”
Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people.
The king's favour is toward a wise servant: but his wrath is against him that causeth shame.35. causeth shame] Or, doeth shamefully, R.V. marg. Comp. Proverbs 10:5.